Tom Freitag In the latest installment of "Band in a Box" from our friends at…
- Posted on Feb 24th 2012 1:15PM by Joshua Ostroff
But it's not.
Instead, the kiddie power ballad by 'Flight of the Conchords'' ever-brilliant Bret McKenzie is nominated beside only Sergio Mendes' bland Brazilian cartoon tune 'Real in Rio,' saddling 'The Muppets' song's likely win with an asterisk because a two-song competition is no competition at all -- especially in a year with 10 best picture nominees and in a category that once topped out at 14 songs in 1945.
In fact, McKenzie's equally charming (if somewhat less epic) 'Muppets' tune 'Life's a Happy Song' and the Kermit-crooned 'Pictures in my Head' were among 37 other best song finalists which failed to make the cut, including tracks by the illustrious likes of Mary J. Blige, OK Go, Willie Nelson, Elvis Costello, Brad Paisley, Lady Gaga and Elton John. But that's not all.
There were also songs from Soundgarden singer Chris Cornell, indie icons the National, troubled legend Sinead O'Connor, Sigur Ros' Jónsi and Black Eyed Peas' wil.i.am. Plus, Zooey Deschanel had a song in that 'Winnie the Pooh' movie. Oh, and that Golden Globe-winning Madonna song from 'W.E.'? It wasn't even eligible because it began more than a minute into the closing credits which, well, fair enough.
- 'Wizard of Oz' (1939)
- 'Pinocchio' (1940)
- 'Breakfast at Tiffany's' (1961)
- Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969)
- Shaft (1971)
- 'Fame' (1980)
- 'Flashdance' (1983)
- 'Top Gun' (1986)
- 'Dirty Dancing' (1987)
- 'Philadelphia' (1993)
- 'Hustle and Flow' (2005)
- '8 Mile' (2002)
- 'Slumdog Millionaire' (2008)
- 'Once' (2007)
- 2012 Grammy Moments
- Bruce Springsteen
- Whitney Houston
- Bruno Mars
- Paul McCartney
- Beach Boys and Adam Levine
- Paul McCartey Jam
- Juno Award 2012 Nominees
- Avril Lavigne
- Justin Bieber
- City and Colour
- Coeur de Pirate
- Dan Mangan
- Diamond Rings
- F---ed Up
- Kardinal Offishall
- 12 Artists Who Bombed on SNL
- Sinead O'Connor, October 3, 1992
- Ke$ha, April 17, 2010
- Cypress Hill, October 2, 1993
- Coldplay, October 25, 2008
- The Go-Gos, November 14, 1981
- Frank Zappa, October 21, 1978
- Britney Spears, October 13, 2003
- Laura Branigan, December 4, 1982
- Kanye West, December 13, 2008
- Linkin Park, February 5, 2011
- Taylor Swift, January 10, 2009
- Ashlee Simpson, October 23, 2004
- Adele Performance 2012 Photos
So what happened to an Oscar category that was once a highlight of the awards, with gold statues going to such all-time classics as 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow,' 'When You Wish Upon a Star,' 'White Christmas' and 'Moon River'? More recently, the Academy has honoured such deserving songs as Eminem's 'Lose Yourself' from '8 Mile,' A.R. Rahman's 'Jai Ho' from 'Slumdog Millionaire' and 'Falling Slowly' from 'Once.' Not to mention the similarly great if rather unexpected win for Three 6 Mafia's 'It's Hard Out Here for a Pimp' from 'Hustle and Flow.'
But those were exceptions to the rule that for decades now the Best Song category has been about as interesting as Best Sound Editing. So how did the Oscars decimate their ceremony's musical centerpiece?
Well, this year the category for songs fell victim to Academy arcana. The rules, which were changed a couple years ago, now require voters to rate each song on a scale of six to 10, but to make the shortlist a song needs an 8.25 average. If only one gets it, the next highest-rated song joins it. That's what happened this year to create the 2012's record-low number of nominees. In a perfect world, they'd have five like, y'know, pretty much every other category, though the current rules also allow for zero nominees. (The less-stringent old regime had a maximum of five and a minimum of three songs.)
McKenzie's reaction to his 'Muppets' nomination was the same as the rest of us. "It doesn't look like a proper list. It looks like there's been some sort of mistake, like they need to add a few more songs on there," the solo Conchord said to our Huffington Post colleagues. "It's great -- I've got 50-50 odds. The only thing that would be better is if there was one nomination."
But let's be real here, the category would still have been a dud with a full roster of superstar nominees. No matter how big their names are, none of the un-nominated longlist songs are iconic, not like so many past winners. 'Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid''s 'Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head,' for instance, has its own life far outside the cinema. The title tracks from 1971's 'Shaft,' 1980's 'Fame' and 1983's 'Flashdance' ruled radio -- in fact, almost all the 1980s winners, like 'Say You, Say Me,' 'Take My Breath Away' and '(I've Had) The Time of My Life,' became ubiquitous pop hits.
(Fun trivia note: Italo-disco legend Giorgio Moroder wrote both 'Flashdance ... What a Feeling' theme and Berlin's 'Take My Breath Away.')
But after 'The Little Mermaid' won in 1989 for the admittedly great song 'Under the Sea,' the academy tended to reward mostly cheeseball kids music. Disney songs from 'Beauty and the Beast,' 'Aladdin, 'Lion King' and 'Pocahontas' won four out of five years, with two forgettable Madonna songs from 'Dick Tracy' and 'Evita' on the bookends. The outlier was Bruce Springsteen's 'Streets of Philadelphia,' which was good but never became as well-known as the AIDS drama it soundtracked. Celine Dion, love or hate her, deserved to win for 'My Heart Will Go On,' but what followed were more yawn-inducing wins for songs from 'The Prince of Egypt,' 'Tarzan' and 'Monsters, Inc.'
Eminem single-handedly injected legitimacy back into the category and, as we mentioned earlier, there have been a few more since. But what made winners like 'Jai Ho' and 'Falling Slowly' work -- and why 'Man of Muppet' deserves this year's Oscar -- is that they're memorable standalone songs that are also deeply embedded in the fabric of the film. Yet most are tacked onto the closing credits in hopes of an award or tossed off by some artist in hopes of a name-recognition nod. Though the category requires songs to be "original and written specifically for the film," it seems clear many were simply deemed not good enough for an album so sloughed off onto a soundtrack.
So if the Academy Awards want to bring the Best Song Category back to life, they not only need to change the rules to allow for the top five songs to be on the final ballot, but they need to encourage the entire industry to return to its roots and commission songs that deserve to be there in the first place.
Otherwise, they'll never get back to, as Barbra Streisand's Oscar-winning song once put it, the way we were.